Smoking bans persuade light users to quit

Washington, Oct 3: Smoking ban may help light smokers kick the butt, and prevent young people from taking up the habit, a new US study has found for the first time.

Smokers who lived in areas where there was never a ban were not likely to drop their cigarette habit, researchers said. 

Smoking bans did not seem to affect tobacco use among women, although their use was already below that of men.

"These findings provide some of the most robust evidence to date on the impact of smoking bans on young people's smoking," said Mike Vuolo, assistant professor at The Ohio State University in the US.

Results showed that the probability of a young man smoking in the last 30 days was 19 per cent for those living in an area without a ban, but only 13 per cent for those who live in an area with a ban.

For women, the probability was the same (11 per cent) regardless of where they lived. 

The study included 4,341 people from 487 cities in the US who were interviewed every year from 2004 to 2011. All participants were between the age of 19 and 31 during the study.

The researchers found big changes in the number of bans from 2004 to 2011. The percentage of people in this study living in a city with a comprehensive ban increased from 14.9 per cent to 58.7 per cent during that time.

"We found that the implementation of a smoking ban reduces the odds that a young person in that location will smoke at all over time. In other words, young people are less likely to smoke once a smoking ban goes into effect," Vuolo said. 

Smoking bans did not work to reduce or end smoking for those who smoked more than a pack a day when the bans began, he said. However, they prevented light smokers from becoming heavy smokers.

"We found that locations that have had a smoking ban for longer periods of time have fewer youth, regardless of gender, who are heavy smokers than other areas," he said.

These results accounted for the effects of other to tobacco control policies such as taxes, as well as characteristics of the individuals and where they live, said Brian Kelly, professor at Purdue University.

Researchers could not identify why smoking bans reduced smoking among men and not women. However, they said that women in the study already smoked less than men.

The study was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour. PTI